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Ghana Goes Digital For Sustainable Economic Development

By Mawutodzi Kodzo Abissath

 

A simple African proverb advises:  “If your friend is more handsome than you are, admit it and praise him." Both of you will be happy and support each other.

Once upon a time, there lived Hyena and Tortoise. That was even long before the sun started rising from the east and setting in the west. Hyena and Tortoise were neither friends nor enemies. But none of them appreciated anything good about the other. 

One day, Kweku Ananse who was the Governor of the animal kingdom, invited all dwellers of the kingdom for an international conference that would be held in his palace. Hyena and Tortoise were to attend this conference where very important issues bothering on sustainable development were to be discussed. Otherwise their children would perish through hunger and starvation.

 

Hyena and Tortoise had to travel for three days to reach the conference venue. At that time the only means of transport available was “AD One, One” that is, walking.  There was no horse, no bicycle, no car, no ship, let alone an airplane.

 

Because Tortoise knew that he was not fast enough in walking, he set off seven days before the conference day. He knew it would take him three days to get to his destiny and needed at least one extra day to take some rest and prepare himself very well for the main event so that he would not dose off and snore during the conference session. 

 

On the other hand, because Hyena also knew that he could run faster than all the animals in the kingdom, he waited and set off two days to the conference. On the way, he saw some delicious carcass and said to himself: “Let me sit down for a moment and enjoy this delicacy before I continue with my journey.”

 

Just as Hyena was about devouring his feast, another Hyena appeared from nowhere. Then another, and another and they started fighting over the meal. Hyena spent the entire day fighting but could not even get a morsel of the meat to eat. He became so exhausted by the time the fight ended that he could not get enough energy to run as fast as he could have done. Hence, Hyena could not to reach his destination before the conference started. The doors were locked when Governor Kweku Ananse entered the conference hall. Sometimes, over confidence does not pay.

 

The object of this article is not to tell a story to children by the fire side. But to commend the Ministry of Communications, (MoC) the National Communications Authority (NCA) and the Digital Broadcasting Migration Committee (DBMC) for officially launching Ghana’s Digital Migration Publicity Campaign recently.

 

It is imperative to underscore the fact that, Publicity Campaign for such a crucial national event cannot take place without a broadcasting policy. Such a policy then becomes the rock upon which the entire broadcasting structure must be built for national development. As a developing country, Ghana cannot and should not allow the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) revolution that has reduced the entire world into a miniature community to pass by. 

 

In fact, Africa as a whole must no longer sit down with hands in lap, staring into the empty air for the Information revolution to pass by as the industrial revolution did a couple of centuries ago. This time round, posterity will not forgive the Continent for negligence of responsibility.  It is against this background that the formulation of Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) Broadcasting Policy before the launch of Digital Migration Publicity Campaign was in the right direction.

 

It is relevant to enlighten Ghanaian youths that it is over 80 years since broadcasting started in Ghana. It was precisely in July 1935 when our colonial master, the British, introduced a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) relay station in our capital city Accra. That station was code-named radio ZOY.

 

There was nothing like the now defunct Radio Eye, established by Dr. Charles Wereko-Brobby aka Tarzan, Joy FM, Radio Gold, Peace FM, or what have you?  At that time broadcasting in Ghana was mainly radio, and Radio Ghana was the champion. The Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (BGC) was the only and supreme broadcasting station in the country, monopolizing the airwaves.

 

It was only the state that owned and controlled radio stations. The word competition did not exist in the broadcasting dictionary in the country. As for television broadcasting, it is a baby industry. It was born as recently as 1965. That was, eight solid years after Ghana’s independence in 1957. So, even those who were born a year after independence were older than television broadcasting in Ghana.  Television broadcasting at the time was in black and white. Colour television was introduced in 1985 and most of the children born in the 1990s may not have watched black and while images on a screen before.

 

Since 1965, what is technically referred to as “Terrestrial Television broadcasting in Ghana has been in analogue.  Records show that it was in 2008 that a pilot terrestrial Digital Video Broadcasting system (DVB-T) was installed by GBC here in Accra.

 

As narrated in the story above, Ghana knew that she could not technologically run as fast as some advanced nations (Hyena), so she started gradually but steadily as (Tortoise).  Ghana set off on the journey from analogue to digital broadcasting destination slowly. In 2010, GBC launched a DVB-T transmission network in Accra and Kumasi. That was how Ghana started the process of migration from analogue broadcasting to Digital Migration Television (DTT).

 

Various Governments since independence were cautious and prudent but progressive in this regard. One of the objectives is to ensure that the DTT process was well coordinated and organised systematically. To this end, a committee of experts known as Digital Broadcasting Migration Committee (DBMC) was set up for this purpose. Through the work of this committee, Government hit the ground running with DVB-T2 transmission in 2013. There is no doubt that, like Tortoise, Ghana will slowly but surely reach the digital television-broadcasting destination before the appointed time. 

 

Dr Edward Omane-Boamah, Ghana’s Minister for Communications who officially launched the DTT Broadcasting Policy recently, informed the nation that Ghana’s migration from analogue to digital broadcasting would be carried out in phases, “with the ‘switch on’ of digital transmission, preceding the ‘switch off’ of analogue transmission on September 21, 2017.” The policy document can easily be accessed on the Ministry’s website http://www.moc.gov.gh/images/Articles/Draft-DTT-Policy--2016.pdf.

 

The 1992 Republican Constitution does not allow any institution to do things as they please. The Ministry of Communications and its Agencies cannot wake up one morning and dictate to Ghanaians how the DTT Broadcasting Policy must be implemented. “Kpaooo!”

 

Legal and Regulatory Framework had to be put in place first. This is one reason why sometimes people with revolutionary spirit feel a bit frustrated. According to the Policy, certain existing laws, policies and regulations that must guide the effective implementation of the digital policy ought to be amended accordingly.

 

The DTT Policy document identifies the following among other things: 
The Ghana Broadcasting Corporation Decree, 1968, (NLCD 226; the National Media Commission Act, 1993, (Act 449; the National Media Commission Policy, 2000; the National Media Commission Broadcasting Standards, 2000; the National Media Commission Guidelines for local language broadcasting, 2000 and the National Communications Authority Act, 2008 (Act 769).

 

The rest are the Electronic Communications Act, 2008 (Act 775); the Electronic Transactions Act, 2008 (Act 772); the Electronic Communications Regulations, 2011 (LI991) and the National Telecommunications Policy, 2005.  As you can see, democracy goes hand in hand with patience. This is why, as a nation that has adopted democratic principles, sometimes, we should not be too harsh with ourselves.

 

Another major objective of the DTT Policy as underlined in the policy document is to guarantee the availability of all existing terrestrial analogue television stations in digital formats in at least their current existing coverage areas. In other words, when the policy is fully implemented, no television stations will be denied or deprived of extending its broadcasting services to its current coverage areas. That is my layman’s understanding of that objective.

 

The objective that fascinates me most states: “To free up relevant spectrum of economic value from the broadcasting service for telecommunication and other services of value to the state. If I understand this objective right, then Ghana should be better off economically with the implementation of the DTT Policy.

 

As a developing country, Ghana must ensure that all  available natural resources including all factors of production,  be it land, sea, air as well as “relevant spectrum” are put to productive  use for sustainable economic development for the prosperity  of present and future generations of our beloved mother Ghana.

 

The author works with Information Services Department (ISD) in Accra.

 

 

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